November 10, 2013
Richie Incognito is a dick. Jonathan Martin is a sissy. These are the descriptions we’ve been force-fed over the past few days by the mass media. If you haven’t heard, then not only are you lucky as it’s not the most pleasant thing to have happened but you’re also a little behind in the story. Incognito and Martin are, or perhaps at this point, were teammates on the Miami Dolphins pro football team. They were both offensive linemen – in more ways than one, really – and were cut from much different cloths.
Everything came to a head over the weekend of the 2nd/3rd of November and seemed to be a clear-cut case of over-zealous hazing. Over the course of the last 5 days, it’s been shown that there is very little clear cut about this case. Richie Incognito, while having the coolest name in football, also has a bit of a raw edge to him that makes the kind of boorish, abusive behavior depicted almost expected. Jonathan Martin is a rookie on the team and has been seen as having thin skin for having left the team, last Sunday, to distance himself from the situation. Here’s the thing – those are two oversimplified looks at these two gentlem…er…guys. Something very important has been overlooked, at least from what I’ve heard over the past week, and it goes beyond football, beyond the rookie/veteran relationship and beyond the confines of the sports world as a whole. This is about humans being.
First, I know sports. I know the machismo. I’ve played, coached and parented. I know that you just “take it like a man” and if something is pushing you past your limits, you “man up” and do something about it. I know that this is the pervasive attitude and belief system that rears its head, even in the ranks of pewee football. I know that coaches tell 6- and 7-year-olds to suck it up and be a man when said child gets a stinger or light sprain or, alarmingly more frequently, a concussion. I also know that inside the helmet, be it football, hockey or baseball (batting), there’s sniffling, lip-biting and a kid doing everything in his or her power to not show the coach that it hurts to the point of making them cry. I’ve been that kid. I’ve coached a lot of those kids. I’ve watched, helplessly, as it was my kid. The bottom line for me has always been this: it takes more guts to take yourself out of a dangerous situation than it does to stay in it and that’s not always because you’re out of the immediate situation but more because you have to deal with it from your coach at teammates thereafter.
One thing that has come up was that Jonathan Martin was somehow weak or soft for having removed himself from the situation by quitting on the team. It’s pretty easy for us all to pass judgment, isn’t it? It’s not us. It’s our perception of one man, whom we don’t know, fitting into a schema that isn’t necessarily how it is, but how it’s shown and sold to us. What we don’t have is any knowledge into what was going through Martin’s head. We don’t know if he was along for the ride and “taking it like a man,” and generally not bothered by everything up to that certain point, that tipping point, the breaking, the snapping point. You know, that point where it’s all fun and games until it really hurts or really crosses a line – a line we may not have even known was there – and changes everything.
Here, my point is this: Incognito and Martin were, according to teammates, thick as thieves for the vast majority of the season, thus far. Everyone making Incognito out as a bad guy seems shocked by this and everyone portraying Martin as a helpless victim can’t seem to believe it. It happens. Move on – just because the actors in the play weren’t precisely who you thought they were doesn’t have to change what’s happening. The bottom line is that Richie may be guilty of taking what says were “orders” to toughen Jonathan up a bit too far. How much too far? Enough that Martin completely snapped which, by all accounts, is out of his character. What was his character, though, is taking the high road and removing himself from the situation rather than “punch the bully in the nose,” as most have suggested he should have done.
My question remains, though – when did verbal and sometimes physical abuse become OK? Kids teasing kids and trash talking to each other on the field has been around since the little round ball rolled from one kid to another. What I’ve seen over the few decades of my life indicate it’s getting worse and, in my opinion, what’s worse is that it’s becoming accepted and acceptable. It’s OK to tell someone that you’re going to “shit down your throat?” Really? It’s not ok, then, by the same token, to say, “Whatever” and walk away? In sports, does that mean that if you don’t punch the nose of the person calling you names or giving you heaps of grief, you’re not a man?
I also question those around. To me, if you’re seeing this going on and you don’t step up for the “underdog,” you’re a coward. You may think that you’re just witnessing good, character-building hazing. You may think that, somehow, by not stepping in or, at the very least, finding out what was really going on and assessing whether or not something needed to be done, you’re just maintaining the locker room culture and helping a rookie remember his place. What you’re really doing is being too cowardly to intervene on behalf of someone who is supposedly your teammate, the person you rely on to do his or her job to help you win the game. I know, you’ll come across to the teammate doing the hazing as a something less than the he-man he is because you couldn’t take it, apparently, either. That’s a valid opinion, I suppose, but it’s wrong. Here’s my take, and it’s really simple: it takes more “manliness” to show compassion and support for a person who is suffering than the person who’s doing the tearing down, the abuse, the “hazing.” You want to “man up?” Try being a human.
The one thing that’s not taken into consideration anywhere in the machismo of a locker room is this – not everyone is a he-man, yelly, hitty kind of guy. I’ve had words with my coaches, before, the day practices started, where I said, “I don’t respond to being screamed at. That may work for some of your other players, but if you want the best out of me, that’s not the way to go about it. Talk to me like a person and you’ll get the best player I can be.” I know – about as unmanly as one can get, right? May be, but it worked. Not only did it work, but I became the “go-between” for the coaches and other players who had more the disposition I had. We weren’t unmanly. I’ve played with broken fingers, ribs, toes and dignity (that’s what it’s called when you take a corner kick to the face and wobble for a minute or two). I also had the respect of my teammates who also understood where I was coming from. But I was vocal about it. I wasn’t shy about how I knew I was, even though it was opposite of how all these players you see on TV seem to be. Maybe that’s the difference.
I can’t see a player in the NFL going up to his coach and saying, “Coach, I’m a different cat and take a different approach to motivate and have a different perspective as to what ‘tough’ is,” let alone to teammates who have come up through the inner cities, have been sons of old-school coaches, and as such have a much dimmer view on being cerebral than even aforementioned old-school coaches.
I guess this is when my experience comes in. I mentioned I’ve coached lots of kids in this situation. I’ve coached kids who were only playing because their parents were living “the dream” vicariously through their son or daughter as though it was their ticket to the Stanley Cup even though the kid would much rather be at home, reading. I’ve had the talks with those kids, cajoled them and made them feel as though, even though they hated it with every fiber of their little beings, they would still do it because it did mean so much to their parents. I also made them promise to talk to their parents because I didn’t want them doing what they didn’t want to be doing and also made it very clear that I would be supportive of them and talk to their parents, as well. I also made it clear that we were down 6-3 and I really needed their help out there. I mentioned that I had coached lots of kids who were hiding that pain because they didn’t want to get yelled at by the coach. Being that coach, let me be clear that I wasn’t that coach. In fact, I did something that Jonathan Martin is getting called “soft” for doing – I removed myself from that situation. Tangential story time:
There was no hiding the pain. My left defenseman could barely skate or stand up straight – his back had finally seized. You see, he had gone trail riding with his dad the day before and rolled his quad. He was, genuinely, lucky to be standing there in front of me. So, I knew. I knew that it was only a matter of time before that became too much for him. Despite the pain, however, he was out there and contributing as much as possible. Unfortunately, because we were a player short, already, that meant he had played all 30 minutes, thus far, of the 45-minute game. I had already talked to the referee beforehand, mentioning that there was a very real possibility I was going to pull the player and would, therefore, need to either borrow a player or have them remove a player to keep the play “fair.” That word…fair. At any rate, since the refs were volunteers and not horribly invested in the whole “youth roller hockey movement,” I got a mumbled acknowledgement that filled me with more dread than anything else. So, when it finally happened, I barked to the ref for roughly two minutes to get his attention. Nothing. Well, nothing except a 5-on-3 breakaway that resulted in a goal against. The deciding goal against, not to make too fine a point.
So, now, I have a player completely hunched over, sobbing because he’s blaming himself, and a face-off. Well, unfortunately, I started to unravel a bit. First and foremost, I called the ref over to my player and while I’m explaining what needs to happen, I’m gently moving the hunched, sobbing defenseman to the bench. Now, at this time an…inquisitive…parent had been eavesdropping and at the suggestion of either “borrowing an opposing player” or having them pull on of theirs to even the teams up, there comes this bellowing rampage about “how would that be fair to the kids? What would that teach the kids? Why should they lend them a kid? How that be fair?” As you can tell, very much the mentality that give coaches hives and youth sports parents a bad name. “Why?” you ask, as these seem to be perfectly fair, reasonable questions. Why, indeed.
I will refrain from printing my tirade. I will simply summarize: Fair has nothing to do with it as the kid doubled over on the sideline thinking this is all his fault and feels not only pain, but guilt as he feels he has let down all of his teammates, friends. Fair has everything to do with as it shows the kids the importance of helping and that it’s more about the game than the game – meaning the culture of the game than the game currently being played and that it wasn’t about winning or losing, anymore, but about doing something for a friend, as they were all friends outside of the game, and having even teams. Why would you want to play a team when they’re at an obvious disadvantage when playing against an evenly matched and fully complemented team is much more satisfying, win or lose? Would you rather beat a team because your best was better than their best, that day, or because they were two men short and you beat an already disadvantaged team? Likewise, would you rather lose knowing you were able to compete and your best just wasn’t up to snuff or because you never had a chance from the get-go? Yes, that’s the summary. I got very red-faced and blustery…until I stopped. I looked at the kids I was coaching and they deserved better than that from me. They deserved who I was, not what I became in that moment. It’s something I’m still not proud of and given the chance would still apologize to the parent if I could readily identify him. It’s also why I’m not coaching, anymore. What I saw in me and I my potential for demonstrating that behavior in front of the kids I was coaching – that scared me enough to walk away, even though I really did love it. That is, however, the kind of coach you see on every field or rink – that fiery coach who yells and screams and throws headsets or benches.
To bring this back to the situation at hand, it also had to do with things that were out of my control. In the time since, I’ve been diagnosed and have received treatment for depression and it touched that part of my brain that was responsible for my reactions that day (and other days, really, outside of the rink). This is something that Brandon Marshall has been very outspoken about, in his life. His turbulent past has settled down greatly since he sought and has received – and is still receiving – treatment for his mental illness. What this has to do with the Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin situation is exactly this: we don’t know what’s going on in either of these two men’s brains. We also don’t know how any mental illness played into the tipping point. I mean, for my part, as a youth coach, I’d been heckled for years, by grandmothers no less, and it was just water off a duck’s back – until it wasn’t. I saw something in myself that scared me and that’s when I chose to walk away. There may have been something that Jonathan saw, that afternoon, or felt that made him do a complete 180 and walk away from the game he loved and the teammates he would ultimately be letting down. He may have felt that it was better to let them down by walking away than to risk the alternative and only Jonathan Martin knows what that alternative might have been. Am I saying that this is what happened? No. I am saying, however, that there are things going on that we don’t know and there are things inside each man’s mind that we will never know, for better or for worse, and that to say a man’s “soft” because he chose to walk away than risk a much worse outcome, well…that’s ignorant.
October 17, 2013
Fans of modern music tend to form strange and permanent connections with the musicians that perform the music they love. Another trend that I’ve encountered over the years is that modern music has a way of claiming lives of the musicians performing it. While there are some rock stars that have burned too brightly and burned out through addiction and overdose, there are some that are taken from us far too early by others’ actions. These are just as hard, if not a bit harder, to me. I remember, at the age of 13, learning about Cliff Burton’s death. I was, apparently, depressed for a couple of months. I don’t know if I had exactly the same reaction, depression-wise, seven years later, when I learned that a drunk driver took from this earth one of the most talented, underrated and creative guitarists I’d ever listened to – Criss Oliva. I probably wasn’t the same variety of ‘mess’ I was with Cliff, but this was still one of those moments where you just feel your heart goes away for a bit, sort of in hiding, sort of retreating.
I never got to meet Criss – my dad did! – but, again, there’s that feeling of connectedness when I listen to a song like “Silk and Steel” or “If I Go Away” where it may not be the most technically amazing playing I’ve ever heard, but I can’t help but get drawn in by the soul and energy and love that were poured into each note. That said, there are plenty of instances where Criss’ playing IS the most technically amazing playing I’ve ever heard. It’s that connectedness that so many fans feel with their favorite bands. It’s why there are legions of Sava-fans out there who felt the loss so deeply. Again, I don’t remember being hit quite as hard as when Cliff died, maybe more as a factor of being 20 rather than 13, but that said, I also feel more sadness, now, when I think about Criss than when I think of Cliff. I remember being exceedingly excited about “Handful of Rain” being released because I wanted to hear a fitting tribute. It didn’t disappoint – it was rushed, imperfect and completely heartfelt. I’ve always been so grateful to Alex Skolnik for stepping in and helping make that record happen.
I have two sons who both tend to enjoy metal, even if it’s not their mainstay genre (though, it kind of is. \m/ ), but have both been raised with an appreciation for Criss and his playing. That’s what we’re left with, though – Criss’ music and emotion and energy he put behind every riff, every pinch harmonic squeal. Twenty years ago, today, the metal world lost an amazing guitarist and person. Rest in peace, Criss, and know how much you gave to the world.
October 8, 2013
Týr – “Valkyrja”
There are only a handful of bands that I will pre-order “song un-heard,” as it were, and it’s a position that’s gained over years of trust in putting out solid music, release after release. Týr is one of those bands. I don’t always love everything that’s on an album, but I always come away from each release happy and satisfied. The band’s 7th offering, “Valkyrja” is absolutely no different.
The pre-order arrived, yesterday, and delivered the t-shirt, pendant and CD. From a quality perspective, I’m impressed. The t-shirt is Fruit of the Loom-based and the pendant has definite heft and is a high-quality casting. The CD is slim-pak’d and is gorgeous from an artwork standpoint. The cover is a beautiful painting with rich colors and transports you right into the story: a warrior who is trying, in essence, to leave his earthly woman for the goddess Freyja, by impressing the Valkyrie in order to gain entrance to Valhalla.
The only change in Týr, as a band, is the parting of Kari Streymoy, necessitated by taking care of his back, injured back in 2008. His is replaced, for the recording, by Nile’s George Kollias, who does an excellent job and brings some different techniques (mostly cymbal and double-bass work) that showcase well with Týr.
There is absolutely no question that this is a Týr album and fans of the prog-metal aspects of the band will be happy to see some of that return while fans of their heavier recent work will be pleased with the amount of almost thrash work on the album. The album also features two and a half Faeroese songs (“Nation” starts in English and finishes in Faeroese) with, as is the norm, 4-5 songs that are based off of either traditional lyrics, music or both. Granted, Heri and the band modernize, of course, it’s still very cool to have traditional Norwegian, Faeroese and Iclandic folklore and music brought to a wider audience.
Musically, it’s a progression from “The Lay of Thrym” with a difference — the ultra-treble-heavy guitars from the previous album have been eschewed, returning to their more typical, balanced, tone. It’s still crunchy and the highs still soar while the lows roar. For the most part, the mix is pristine — no clipping, excellent channel separation and discernible dynamics. This speaks to a band and producer who care about the music and not winning the “volume war” that has claimed so many victims of late through the overuse of compression, killing dynamic range and the listeners’ ears. Thank you, Týr, for respecting your fans enough to focus on the music and not trendy sonic trash!
With that, how’s the music? Awesome. It’s heavy, well-written, well-performed and thoroughly enjoyable. The album opens with “Blood of Heroes” and breathes only once, “The Lay of Our Love,” while taking you on a sonic journey showcasing masterfully dynamic songwriting.
“Blood of Heroes” is an excellent opener, free of pretense and taking you straight into the story with solid riffing and double-bass driven fury. “Mare of my Night” follows with the same excellent writing and playing while offering probably the most uncomfortable quasi-erotic depiction I’ve encountered as the warrior is completely unprepared for the otherworldly…”needs.” It’s a great song, but caught me a little off guard. “Hel Hath No Fury” features one of the catchier choruses — something Heri and Týr pull off well — and some excellent guitar work.
Something new for Týr is Heri’s duet with Liv Kristine (Leaves’ Eyes) on the song “The Lay of Our Love.” Don’t expect something in the vein of Ozzy and Lita’s “Close My Eyes Forever.” No, this has complex melody and harmony lines and soars, vocally. It’s interesting to hear how well Heri and Liv’s voices match — and Heri can hang with Liv, even when she rises into the Soprano range. This song is an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
Dedicated to Iceland, “Nation” is a solid “rocker” of a song with some nice guitar/drum interplay and fun pace. It leads nicely into “Another Fallen Brother,” which not only has some shred elements, but again provides a quite catchy chorus that’s not embarrassingly out of place or cheesy. Again, did I mention shred? “Grindasvísan” is the first of the Faeroese songs and is more anthemic, vocally, but features an excellent solo showcasing Heri’s custom 30-fret Ibanez. Bringing to mind Michael Fath’s 27-fret Hamer, this allows Heri to hit some truly high notes “purely” and without using harmonics. It’s well used and comes to play again, later in the album on the Pantera cover.
“Into the Sky” employs some different vocal techniques – specifically, a slide – that I wasn’t 100% on board with, at first, but has since grown on me. It’s a solid song and leads into “Fánar Burtur Brandaljóð” which, obviously, is the second Faeroese song, and is a nice, heavier song that drives, shifting gears higher and higher until it transitions into the fastest track on the album, “Lady of the Slain.” This song flat out rocks and leaves you quite ready for the slightly slower, though only marginally less heavy, “Valkyrja.” Excellent pacing, smooth vocals and precise guitar work bring to a close the “originals” section of this album.
There are two covers for your enjoyment. The rendition of Iron Maiden’s “Where Eagles Dare” is excellent and spot on with a good mix of Maiden and Týr. At first, I was thinking, “of all the Maiden songs, they went with this one?” Now, I’m thinking, “great choice and great job!”
Týr’s cover of “Cemetary Gates” is one of the superlative covers I have heard in my metal-listening life. They make the song their own while paying reverent homage to Darrell’s legacy. As a side note, seeing Týr perform at the Alrosa Villa venue — the location of Diamond Darrell’s shooting — was unexpectedly emotional, watching all the bands, especially Týr, talking about Dime’s influence on them. It was very powerful. That comes through in this cover. Heri’s vocals cover Phil’s range perfectly and the guitar work would earn them the famous Dime “two thumbs up.” I can’t say enough good things about Týr’s performance of this song.
In all honesty, the first time listening through the album (granted, it was on the commute), I wasn’t 100% sold. I’ve now listened to it a number of times and am completely on board. It’s a Týr album, through and through, and it delivers in spades all we’ve come to expect from Heri, Terji and Gunnar — and whomever is on the skins. I guess, simply, one should expect nothing less.
July 9, 2013
When I like something, I get confused and sometimes irritated when others either don’t like it or don’t even know about it. This is the case, here. What we have, here, is an album that has been out for a week, now, and I’ve only seen three bloody reviews of the thing and no buzz, whatsoever, and that’s a shame.
So, quick background – I *like* “Spell Eater.” There, in what seems to be an unpopular opinion amongst what I’ve heard termed as “metal purists,” I enjoy the album for what it is, and that’s straight ahead, no nonsense metal. There’s no pretention to be modern. The most modern thing about the sound on that album would be the double-bass cannons. Perhaps I should clarify – modern in the era of “metalcore” this, “black metal” that…none of that, for which I’m grateful. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to take a release by a band and say it’s “heavy metal” and not have to do some sort of genre juggling.
Enter “Starbound Beast” and enter more sophisticated writing, less reliance on what I would refer to as “weird” vocal tactics (the strangled screams, the guttural growls and weird (that word again) fluttering vocal trick), and, most important to me, more polished embracing of the “old sound” of the mid-80s heavy metal. Before I go any further, let me say that while I don’t hate “I Want To F@$% You To Death,” (hereafter known as IWTFYTD), I think it would have made a “fun” b-side (remember those?) and I think it was a misstep to put it front and center on the album as the second actual song. It’s co-written by Lemmy, so how could it be bad, right? Read the title, again, and check back. To me, it’s the only weak track on the album and I could have done without it. It’s a solid enough song, musically, but the lyrics and Lemmy-ish delivery don’t work for me. That’s OK, though – it’s my opinion and if I don’t like and you do, that’s perfectly fine.
OK, enough with the negative – there are plenty of negative-ish reviews out there, which I don’t understand, but to each their own. What I enjoy about this album seem to be bones of contention and, as mentioned, revolve around a throwback approach to a more straight forward metal approach. This album doesn’t dance around anything, just forging forward with well constructed songs with driving rhythms, vocals and solos. It also doesn’t just pick one style – “Destroy Your Life” would fit in 1990 with its pounding intro and heavy progressions while the next track, “Starbound Beast” slogs and sludges along with extended and oft-soaring vocal lines and straight-forward riffing straight out of a mishmash of late-80s/early-90s Maiden, Priest and, perhaps, a touch Wylde-era Ozzy. “Zenith” rockets forth with reckless abandon with excellent riffing but also shows restraint and varies the assault creating a very nice dynamic in the song.
“Oracle” also starts with a thrashing intro but settles into a verse that offers a nice contrast and feels very 1985-ish, at times. It flows very well into another mid-to-late-80s sounding riff (think Metal Church), and that’s “Receiver.” The soloing on this song really opens up and grooves and I enjoy it, a lot. “Spectra Spectral” is another straight forward metal song that showcases every band member’s grasp of writing a very accessible, in a positive sense, song. I would have released this as the first single…
The album closes with “Alpha Tauri” and “Running Wild.” The former is a solid song that utilizes excellent vocal harmonics, solid riffing and soloing and features an ethereal break that really works well with the song while leading into possibly the most throwback riff-reentry on the album which takes you back to 1984 with no apologies and no need for said apologies. The song works. Regarding “Running Wild,” all I can say is that if you don’t see Paul Di’Anno and 1979-era Maiden, go back and try it again. Yes, I know it’s a Priest cover…that doesn’t change my opinion that Jill sounds more like Killers-era Di’Anno than Rob…
This may seem like either a “duh” title or a very obnoxiously pretentious title. It’s neither. It’s simply a reminder that what I’m going to talk about (the “meat” mentioned in the previous article”) revolves around looking at what charts and trends and patterns tell us and how those, when thought about rationally, do make me wonder about the research companies’ ratings a lot of the time. Don’t misunderstand, I know that these companies do good work and spend a lot of time doing it and that a lot of people put a lot of faith in their reports…I’m just not one of those people, anymore. Here’s why…
Remember Wayne Gretzky’s horrible refrigerator art? There are some charts out there that I wouldn’t call the most gorgeous either. I’m going to my experience with some nasty refrigerator art as examples of pre- and post-Weinstein approaches. What do I mean? Well, read on.
The one that will prove to be the “d’oh!” of the early buys in my history and among the shortest lived of all my holdings, ever, is Stamps.com (STMP). This was, initially, before I really understood how to protect my investment, which is what stop-limits, trailing stops and the like are all about. So…
Stamps.com is an example why being green and not understanding trends was a debacle for me from the beginning. First, when I purchased (late October 2011), it was in the middle of a massive single-day surge, going from just over $26/share to just over $32/share. I bought in at $32.13. Yeah…I saw a “leap” and I leapt, not understanding that was probably the stupidest thing I could have done. The next day it peaked at $33.73. Then, the weekend happened and something cooled off, because that Monday, it closed at $32.56. The following day, it closed at $29.48. The following close was $28.67. I sold at $27.71 before it hit its low of $27.31. This is a classic case of day late, many dollars short.
If I had looked at the rumblings – the trends – instead of listening to the hype and trusting a very poor instinct, I would have purchased on Thursday, at closing, which would have been $25.91. The trend was that the volume was increasing at an odd rate – think exponential, though it wasn’t really. The anomaly, to me, though, is the gap on Tuesday, when it tried to surge from a previous close of $25.41 and on a surprising drop in volume (from 401K to 170K), dropped in price $0.51 on an increased volume of 409K. Now, this makes sense, to a point.
To a point?! Yes, it makes sense to a point. The problem was that the Tuesday volume was perfectly in line with what had been happening the previous weeks. So, to me (now), the indicators were that it was trying to explode, but hadn’t quite made it yet. Enter Thursday.
The jump on Thursday didn’t make sense to me, then, as much as it does, now, increasing $1.9 on much increased 631K. Presently, this tells me that it’s getting over its shyness. However, here’s where n00b Phil stepped in. I saw this flash mid-day Friday… The buy signal was flashed, in my eyes, now, when volume tried and failed to match the previous day (Tuesday vs Monday), but then succeeded on Wednesday and surpassed on Thursday. It’s a micro-trend, but, like I said, now that tells me it’s getting over some shyness and is probably going to have a good day. What I know, now, that I didn’t know then, however, is that the aforementioned good day, was just that – a good day.
Friday exploded, jumping $6.82/share on a strong surge where volume hit 2.1M.
Here’s the thing…remember that refrigerator art? Remember going to where the pass will be rather than where it is, presently? Yeah…I broke all those rules. I saw this surge as a sign that this was going to take OFF! …and it did…for 2 days. Monday saw a slight reduction in price, down by $0.16 on almost half the volume, 1M. Not horrible, right? Well, here’s where it ALL comes together. Tuesday saw the price drop to $29.48 with increased volume. That’s a $2+ decrease on increased volume which, really, in the grand scheme of things, a bit of a warning…you know, when you then set a stop-limit of $28.95/$28.45, which may seem kind of tight, but when it looks like things are going to drop, I tend to play things tight…I use hard-earned tiny dollars and I like to keep them.
The selloffs continued, though not catastrophically, with volume slowly reducing back to 637K on Friday after a total drop for the week of $4.34, giving back a good chunk of the earnings that surged the previous Friday. Now, because of the stop-limit in place, I jettisoned the stock at $27.74, giving up and losing a total of $4.39/share, well above what should have been my threshold for loss, as it dropped 15% and most sane investors would have decided that 8% is quite enough, thanks.
Now, Stamps.com did continue to maintain itself for a while before doing something that all overly cautious investors hate – after coming down a bit and setting down a nice support just under $24 for the next few months, it ramped up, again, from mid-January until mid-February when it should have, again, had a solid stop-limit in place when the stage 3 top formed and then went *poof* into another mini free-fall. The difference with the January-February surge, to me, was that it was done on sane volume levels with no extraordinary leaps one way or another…well, that and the relative strength and momentum were actually moving up, as opposed to in November when they were contraindicated by these two metrics.
Here’s the thing and why these are titled “Everyone’s Lost But Me,” the Monday after the surge, STMP was upgraded from Buy to Strong Buy. It then dropped $7 over the course of the next month at which point it was downgraded to Buy. It then dropped another $3 and over the course of the next month set a stage 1 support floor another $2 below when it was set to Buy. It then does its fun thing in Jan through March where it goes from the $25 support to a high of just under $33 and then back to form another support-looking trend that when you look at it after it dropped to $23.39 and jumped back up $28.52, you’d see that it’s trended more towards forming a stage 3 top, which means…at some point, fairly soon, it’s going to start sliding again. However Sabrient changed its rating from Buy to Hold. Honestly, this is the first one that makes sense to me, since it’s not started dropping, yet, but it’s not really gaining, either. Here’s what made my jaw drop.
As the stock closed at $27.69 or so, the following day, the rating is changed from Hold to Sell. Makes sense, right? Sort of. There was only a slight dip in Relative Strength and the volume was consistent. Was it, then, any surprise when the stock jumped up to $30.24? Not really. What kills me, though, is the “whipsaw” ratings change from Sell to Strong Buy with no in-between. It then tried to break resistance twice and failed and on the ensuing stage 4 drop, the rating was dropped from Strong Buy to, simply, Buy. It staged a micro-rally ( $0.80 ) and was then upgraded to Strong Buy, again. Over the next 5 or so days, the stock dropped just under $4. It was reduced to Buy.
What is my point? Simple – if you had followed the Sabrient ratings, you’d be down a chunk of change. If you’d paid attention to the numbers on the page and lines on the graph, you could have come out a bit ahead. And, finally, if you do what I did, you’ll lose money, as well.
Please don’t misunderstand…I’m by no means an expert at any of this. I just know now things that make my brain twitch when I see what I consider ratings changes that are counterintuitive or contraindicative when you look at the graph, the trends, the “where you’re going” not “where you are.”
“So, Mr. Smartypants, what would YOU have done differently that’s so different from what the ratings say and come out ahead?!?”
That’s a whole ‘nother article…stay tuned, for next time when I bring you “Everyone’s Lost But Me, Part IV: Making Stamps.com Work Phil-style” or something…that doesn’t sound like a very pithy title…
So…we’ve established that I’m a bit green when it comes to the financial world and not the good kind of green. So, what’s this “Everyone’s Lost But Me” hooey? What’s this “What Is versus What Is To Be” nonsense? Read on.
“Everyone’s Lost But Me”
This refers to the line in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. It also refers to how I feel, sometimes, when I read the reports from the ratings companies that rate the stocks based on their myriad metrics and come up with something completely counter-intuitive. Now, I know – I’m neither an economist nor a seasoned trader. I also know that math and I have a very guarded relationship. I also know that after reading the book I pimped in the last entry (Stan Weinstein’s treatise on making money regardless of the market) when I look at MY math and their assessments, there’s usually a discernable difference of opinion. I know…who knows best? While I can’t tell you exactly, the subtitle of this entry will help.
“What Is vs. What Is To Be”
I know…”OK, Yoda…” However, think about it this way – when you’re defending against the pass in hockey or basketball or football, do you want to move to where the ball *IS* or where the pass is going? You can’t intercept a pass if you’re rushing to the quarterback and the ball goes whizzing over your head or you’re playing with the forward who sends a beautiful saucer pass right behind you. You would snap your back trying to get back to get the ball/puck, and you still wouldn’t get it. Why? You were too busy focusing on the ball/puck in its current state and not thinking ahead to the destination in order to meet it, there. Have we beaten the sports analogy into the ground, yet? No?
Wayne Gretzky, as a young boy before he set every NHL scoring record known to man, used to sit in front of the television with a pad of paper and a marker. He would then, with the ice layout already drawn on the paper, trace where the puck was going through the course of the entire game. While some people would look at the paper after a game and declare it was the worst refrigerator art ever, Wayne used it to see patterns as to where the puck was going, ended up and what path it took to the net.
Where is this leading? Well…you’ll have to wait for next time to get to the meat of the subject, but the point, here, is that by looking at trends rather than points on a graph, you’re life will be easier and, like me, you’ll wonder what the ratings companies drink while coming up with their metrics…
June 27, 2012
Yes, Indy, everyone’s lost but you. I’m picking this as a title because I’m at a loss. I think part of it is that I’m fairly new to the world of finance and part of it is that after reading even 100 pages of the book “Stan Weinstein’s Secrets For Profiting in Bull and Bear Markets,” it made more sense to me than having read other sites for the previous year or so. If you’ve not read the book and “play” the stock market, read it. If you’ve not read it and you’re serious about making money in the market, read it. If you’ve read it and are reading this, as a choir, prepare to be preached to…as it were. Actually, I’m finished pimping the book. What I’m not finished doing is wondering how companies like Sabrient or The Research Team, Standard and Poor’s or The Street Ratings manage to make the ratings they do and why, really, people buy into their evaluations.
I’m a n00b. Really. I’ve lost a lot of money, well, not a lot…a lot to me…in the stock market. For reference, as a contractor, I didn’t get the luxury of a 401K, so, I decided to stab into the dark financial abyss on my own. Not necessarily a bad idea, but riding the experience that saved me thousands right after 9/11, it’s a completely different beast, here. First, my previous experience was with bonds and manipulating an existing 401K to optimize distribution and so on and so forth. I would do things like decide I needed to read over prospectuses and so throw everything into a money market until I figured out what I “really” wanted to do. This strategy seems really silly to me, now, however, I did that 9/11/2001 at 7:25am and, well, as history played out, I’m exceedingly glad I did. While friends and coworkers saw four-digit+ losses, I made $8. Yes, $8.
So, thinking that this experience somehow translated to savvy, I entered the market $100 at a time with, literally, no idea what I was doing, really. I remember thinking, “this looks like a strong stock and the reports all say ‘Strong Buy’ so it HAS to be good.” After a month or so, it had lost a lot of steam and was dropping like the proverbial sack of potatoes. I didn’t get out. I didn’t drop it like the hot potato it was nearly in a timely enough fashion. A perfect example of “n00b”-ist thinking was the mindset that, “it’s a strong company with a good product, so it HAS to improve.” A week goes by with –5% then the next week with –2.5% then the next week with –4% which, weighted, is beyond my math, but it is still 5% more of a drop than I should have been satisfied to withstand. I had no idea how to use a stop-loss/limit sell.
So, I kept trying, finally setting my mind to scouting IPOs. I’ve actually had some decent luck with the IPOs I selected – none of them being the Facebook IPO, which even *I* saw as a recipe for fiscal disaster. I’m still riding two of them and just jettisoned one this past week after it crested and without much fanfare hit a nice downward spiral. The other two have actually posted into the positive even without having large share totals (I’m not a high power trader, mind you…I deal in ones and tens, not tens of thousands…).
So, I think this might end up being a series of blog entries. Maybe, “Phil’s First-Hand Guide to The Stock Market: A N00b’s-Eye View” or something equally pithy. Next up? What Is versus What Is To be …